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The Mainstream, Sane, Serious Joe Lieberman
One of the favorite tactics of super-sophisticated Beltway media insiders is to band together and point to anyone who expresses views outside of their narrow orthodoxies and laugh at what crazy and unserious "wackos" they are --- in contrast to the very serious-minded, sane and insightful Beltway elite. The current roster of crazy losers includes Mike Gravel and Ron Paul -- the ones opposed to the war in Iraq and to American military domination around the world. They are insane lunatics, total losers, not fit even to be heard in public discourse among the Serious.
Thus, we are treated to an endless stream of snide little insults from the likes of Eve Fairbanks and Joe Klein scoffing at these "lunatics." And, as we all know, in 2004 Howard Dean was completely crazy -- a total wacko -- and Al Gore is vaguely insane, too.
By contrast, the pundits of The New Republic and Time who cheered on George Bush's invasion of Iraq and who work for Marty Peretz and who defend George Bush's lawbreaking and who spent years treating Dick Cheney like royalty and who carefully ponder with Great Angst whether we should start a new war with Iran are the deeply serious, very sane, mainstream thinkers who can banish the nerdy anti-war outcasts to the "lunatic fringes."
Joe Lieberman is, of course, one of the very serious -- deeply, deeply serious -- sane and mainstream political figures. Agree or disagree, he is a real serious and thoughtful and mainstream political thinker.
Last week, as Philip Weiss noted yesterday, Lieberman was the honored guest of evangelical Minister John Hagee and the group he leads, Christians United for Israel. As the Press Release distributed by Very Serious Moderate Lieberman aide Marshall Whittman demonstrates, Lieberman gave a speech there which Weiss, with understatement, calls "shocking." More on that in a moment.
* * * * * *
Lieberman's political comrade, Rev. Hagee, is at once both an extraordinary figure and a common one. He is an evangelical minister who, as an amazing interview he gave late last year to NPR's Terry Gross reflects, believes that "Rapture" -- whereby all Christians literally disappear from earth upon the return of Christ, leaving all non-believers to suffer on Earth -- is "imminent."
Rev. Hagee believes that before Christ returns, the Bible contains prophecies a series of Middle East wars against Muslims. And he also believes that God has placed an absolute bar on the giving away of any Israeli land whatsoever, and thus categorically condemns plans such as the "road map" and the Gaza withdrawal as blasphemies against God. In the Gross interview, the following exchange occurred, beginning with a clip from one of Hagee's sermons:
Hagee sermon: "For those of you in Washington, Jerusalem is not up for negotiation at any time, for any reason, in the future, no matter what your raod map calls for. There are still people in this nation who believes the Bible takes precedence over Washington, DC." TG: Pastor Hagee, if you believe that the Bible takes precedence over Washington - I would assume you think the Bible takes precedence over the Israeli Government as well --
If you use the Bible as the basis for policy, is there any room for compromise? And if you use the bible as the basis for policy, should Muslims use the Koran as the basis for their policy, and then again, what possible basis is there for compromise at that point?
JH: There is really no room for compromise between radical Islam --
TG: I'm not talking about radical Islam. I'm just talking about Islam in general.
JH: Well Islam in general - those who live by the Koran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews.
So we can never negotiate with "radical Islam," and by "radical Islam," we mean "all Muslims," because all Muslims, by definition, are radical, since they all are instructed to slaughter Jews and Christians, and thus can never be negotiated with. This exchange also occurred:
TG: I just want to ask you one question, based on one of your sermons, and this is not about Israel -- you said after Hurricane Katrina, that it was an act of God, and you said when you violate God's will long enough, the judgment of God comes to you. Katrina is an act of God for a society that is becoming Sodom and Gomorrah re-born. Do you still believe that Katrina is punishment from God for a society that is becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah?
JH: All hurricanes are acts of God, because God controls the heavens. I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that.
The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came. And the promise of that parade was that it would was going to reach a level of sexuality never demonstrated before in any of the other gay pride parades.
So I believe that the judgment of God is a very real thing. I know there are people who demur from that, but I believe that the Bible teaches that when you violate the law of God, that God brings punishment sometimes before the Day of Judgment, and I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans.
So that is John Hagee (who, just by the way, had a private meeting late last year with neocon and convicted felon Elliot Abrams, who also happens to be the White House's Middle East Policy Director, and afterwards, Hagee pronounced that they were in agreement on issues of the Middle East and Israel. Just by the way). * * * * * *
Now, here is just a part of what the sane, serious, moderate, mainstream Joe Lieberman said when addressing Rev. Hagee's group two weeks ago:
Thank you for that kind introduction and that warm welcome. May I in turn greet you with the ancient words of welcome offered to pilgrims in Jerusalem -- "Bruchim Habaim B'Shem Hashem" -- blessed be those who come in the name of the Lord. That greeting is especially fitting for you because you have come to Washington not just as men or women, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. You are here as Christians United for Israel. You represent a powerful force of people of faith in America who have pledged to never forget thee, O Jerusalem. . . .
I begin by thanking your founder, Pastor John Hagee. I would describe Pastor Hagee with the words the Torah uses to describe Moses, he is an "Eesh Elo Kim," a man of God because those words fit him; and, like Moses he has become the leader of a mighty multitude in pursuit of and defense of Israel . . . .
You know his story -- almost sixty years ago, a young John Hagee sat at his family's kitchen table in Channelview, Texas, heard the news about Israel's Declaration of Independence, and saw how moved his family was by it. Since then, he has been devoted to the defense of Israel, and to its vitality. He has done so because Israel's fight is his fight. Israel's values are his values. And Israel's hopes and dreams are his hopes and dreams.
Pastor Hagee, I pray that God will bless you with all that you pray for, and I do so with great confidence because I know what the Lord said to Abraham in Genesis 12:3. If ever there was a man who will be blessed because he has blessed Israel, Pastor Hagee, it is you.
You reject the temptation of moral relativism. You understand that there is a difference between good and evil, between eternal and temporal, between Israel and other nations . . . .
In a literal sense, Christians United for Israel was founded a little more than a year ago, in February 2006. But in a larger sense, it began more than 4,000 years ago with the first words God spoke to Abraham in Genesis 12:1: "Now get thee unto the land that I will show thee, and I will make thee a great nation" . . . .
That was the covenantal promise God repeated to Isaac and Jacob and then to Moses, who, with God's help, delivered the children of Israel out of bondage to Mount Sinai where they received the Ten Commandments -- their statement of national values and purpose -- and then, 40 years later, brought them to the land that was promised to them, to the land of Israel.
This is the long odyssey that has brought us here tonight. By standing with Israel today, each of you has joined that journey and taken up the torch that was lit in God's promise to Abraham 4,000 years ago, and carrying it forward to spread that light.
I believe that Israel's rebirth in 1948 was divinely inspired by God, but I know that it was realized by the men and women here on earth who worked so hard to make it happen. Israel will be sustained by the work of men and women like you here on Earth. And I know you know how truly American is your support of Israel. . . .
If we surrender to the barbarism of suicide bombers and yield the Middle East to fanatics and killers, to Al Qaeda and Iran, then all that our men and women in uniform have fought, and died for, will be lost, we will be left a much less secure and free nation, and our Middle East allies -- including Israel -- will be endangered.
Fortunately, you here tonight know that evil will not prevail if good people act. And I know you will not allow Iran and Al Qaeda to triumph over America and Israel.
Lieberman concluded his speech by describing the story of the Book of Esther which, Lieberman said, is "about the cruel Persian leader who sought to exterminate the Jews." According to Lieberman, Queen Esther was reluctant to try to convince the evil Persian King to spare the Jews, but she was eventually convinced that if the Persian King destroyed the Jews, all would suffer. Nobody would be spared, not even Esther. And she thus stopped him. Lieberman then told the group that "You are in this time like Joshua and Caleb in their time" and proceeded to explain what he meant by that:
The story told in chapter 13 of the Book of Numbers where Moses selects out leaders of the Israelites -- "men of distinction" -- to explore The Promised Land and report back, and all of them but Joshua, son of Nun and Caleb, son of Yephunneh, bring back a report that is cowardly because it lacks faith. . . . But Joshua and Caleb disagreed, "We can surely ascend and conquer the land, we can surely do it," because they trusted in the promise God had made to Israel. Of that group, only Joshua and Caleb made it to the Promised Land of Israel.
Dear friends, you Christians United for Israel clearly follow in the footsteps of Joshua and Caleb. Your faith is strong, and so is your confidence. And so great will be your effect.
I thank you and pray that God will bless you and all that you do."
Most of this speaks for itself -- loudly -- but there are a few short observations worth making and questions worth asking: (1) There is a very sizable portion of our country -- including a critically important part of the GOP base -- that favors endless militarism in the Middle East, encompassing not just Iraq but Iran and many others, for entirely religious and theological (rather than strategic or geopolitical) reasons. Perhaps that might be worth some greater discussion in the media.
(2) Could we at least all agree that it is long past time to dispense with the outrageous taboo which prohibits a discussion of the allegiance to Israel among right-wing neocon warmongers like Joe Lieberman and the influence that it has in their advocacy of endless wars against Israel's enemies such as Iran and Syria? Given that the likes of Joe Lieberman have formed common cause with the likes of John Hagee, and they all explicitly say that God demands that the U.S. defend Israel and wage war against its enemies, isn't it rather impossible to pretend any longer that no such relationship exists?
(3) Is there anyone who can identify the specific views of Mike Gravel, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul that are "crazier" and more "unserious" than the views expressed here by John Hagee and Joe Lieberman?
(4) What exactly is the difference between the view of "radical Islam" that God demands that jihad be waged against Islam's enemies and the views expressed here by Hagee and Lieberman? Or the views of Osama bin Laden that God willed Middle Eastern land to Muslims and therefore can never be negotiated and the Lieberman/Hagee view that God willed it to Israel and can never be negotiated even if it means war?
(5) Could someone ask Joe Lieberman what exactly are the differences "between Israel and other nations"?
(6) For all of you throngs of media stars out there who spent much time condemning the Democratic Party for involving itself with such a wild, despicable radical like Michael Moore, do you have anything to say about Joe Lieberman's close association with, and drooling praise for, someone who believes that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment against the City of New Orleans for its wretched sins?
If it is perfectly permissible for Joe Lieberman to openly associate with someone like John Hagee and keep his membership in the Serious, Sober, Important, Respectable, Sane Mainstream Club, with whom can't he associate himself? Is there ever a way for someone on the Right to remove themselves from respectable, mainstream Seriousness?
UPDATE: Just as I was about to post this -- literally seconds before -- someone e-mailed me this new video from Max Blumenthal which shows the true face of the Christian Zionist movement of Rev. Hagee, the one Lieberman has embraced so enthusiastically. Coincidence?
In the video, which Blumenthal filmed at the convention two weeks ago, Hagee proclaims to cheering throngs, who are waiving Israeli flags:
Therefore it is time for America to embrace the words of Senator Joseph Lieberman and consider a military preemptive strike against Iran to prevent a nuclear holocaust in Israel. . .
Blumenthal notes that of all the speakers at the convention, Lieberman received the "by far the best reception," and showed Lieberman saying this:
I want to take the liberty of describing Pastor Hagee in the words the Torah uses to describe Moses. . . and those words really fit him. Like Moses, he has become the leader of a mighty multitude, even greater than the multitude that Moses led from Egypt to the Promise Land.
Mike Gravel and Ron Paul are total wackos. MoveOn.org and DailyKos is filled with fringe extremists. Iran is led by warmongering religious fanatics. And Tim Russert and Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman are very serious and responsible and wise.
UPDATE II: This is how Serious People talk about other Serious People -- Serious Person Joe Klein said this in February, 2006 about Serious Person Joe Lieberman (h/t Zack): "I could never imagine myself voting against him. But he was profoundly wrong about the most important issue of the past five years [Iraq]." Just think about that for a second. Klein goes on to criticize Lieberman for failing to express regret and error over Lieberman's support for Bush's invasion of Iraq. But Klein himself supported that invasion, and rather than expressing regret or remorse himself, now falsely claims that he did not (i.e., deceives everyone by claiming he opposed the war). Klein and Bill Kristol are two of the featured columnists in Time Magazine. And, like Lieberman, they are both very very Serious. -Glenn Greenwald
© 2007 Salon.com